kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Back to the thyroid for another week. To maintain a healthy thyroid, include foods with iodine. Iodine is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue. It is not only essential for healthy thyroid function, it is required for efficient metabolism.

Iodine is a potent anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti-cancer agent. It has four significant roles in your body:

  • Maintain your weight and metabolism
  • Develop brain and cognitive function in children
  • Optimize fertility
  • Strengthen your immune system.

Other tissues also absorb and use large amounts of iodine, including your breasts, skin, salivary glands, pancreas, brain, stomach, cerebral spinal fluid, and thymus.

Iodine deficiency or insufficiency in any of these tissues will lead to tissue dysfunction. Hence the following symptoms could provide clues that you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:

  • Salivary glands will disable your saliva production, making your mouth dry
  • Skin will result in rough and dry skin and inability to sweat normally
  • Brain will lower alertness and intelligence quotient (IQ) levels
  • Muscles will produce nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, fibromyalgia

The Total Diet Study, performed by the FDA, reported an iodine intake of 621 micrograms for two-year-olds between 1974 and 1982, compared with 373 micrograms between 1982 and 1991. During the same time period, the baking industry replaced iodine-based anti-caking agents with bromine-based agents.

In addition to iodine’s disappearance from our food supply, exposure to toxic competing halogens like bromine, fluorine, chlorine, and perchlorate has dramatically increased. These halogens are absorbed through your food, water, medications, and environment, and they selectively occupy your iodine receptors, worsening your iodine deficit. Halogens are highly reactive, and they can be very harmful or lethal to biological organisms in sufficient quantities.

Here are more factors contributing to falling iodine levels:

  • Diets low in seaweed (fish and shellfish, too)
  • Vegan and vegetarian diets that don’t include foods high in iodine: whole grains, green beans, zucchini, kale, spring greens, watercress, strawberries and organic potatoes with skin.
  • Less use of iodide in the food and agricultural industry
  • Fluoridated drinking water
  • Rocket fuel (perchlorate) contamination in food
  • Less use of iodide in the food and agricultural industry
  • Use of radioactive iodine in many medical procedures, which competes with natural iodine

Up to 40 percent of the population worldwide is at risk for iodine deficiency.  Iodine deficiency is one of the three most common nutritional deficiencies, along with magnesium and vitamin D.

Research has shown that taking too much iodine may also lead to a subclinical version of the condition, which is a milder form that is often missed by laboratory tests.

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) has issued a statement warning about the risks of too much iodine, especially from iodine, potassium iodide, and kelp supplements. According to the ATA, such supplements may “contain iodine in amounts that are up to a thousand times higher than the daily Tolerable Upper Limits for iodine.” They advised against the ingestion of iodine or kelp supplements containing in excess of 500 micrograms iodine daily, and noted that ingesting more than 1,100 micrograms of iodine per day (the tolerable upper limit) may cause thyroid dysfunction.

Instead, you can follow these helpful strategies:

  • Eat organic as often as possible. Wash all produce thoroughly to minimize your pesticide exposure.
  • Avoid eating or drinking from (or storing food and water in) plastic containers. Use glass and safe ceramic vessels.
  • If you have to eat grain, look for organic whole-grain breads and flour. Look for the “no bromine” or “bromine-free” label on commercial baked goods.
  • Avoid sodas.
  • If you own a hot tub, look into an ozone purification system. Such systems make it possible to keep the water clean with minimal chemical treatments.
  • Look for personal care products that are as chemical-free as possible. Remember: anything you put on your skin will go into your bloodstream.
  • When in a car or a building, open windows as often as possible, preferably on opposing sides of the space for cross ventilation. Utilize fans to circulate the air. Chemical pollutants are in much higher concentrations inside buildings (and cars) than outside.

Here are simple things you can do in order to improve the performance of your thyroid:

  • Walk your dog in the park, jog in the morning, and incorporate strength training and other core-building routines.
  • Identify and treat the underlying causes. Find out what’s really triggering your thyroid problems (whether it’s iodine deficiency, hormone imbalance, environmental toxicity, or inflammation) to address it appropriately. For best results, consult an integrative naturopathic practitioner.
  • Load up on fresh iodine-rich foods. As an alternative to iodine supplementation, eat toxin-free sea vegetables or sea weeds like spirulina, hijiki, wakame, arame, dulse, nori, and kombu, which are loaded with the thyroid-friendly nutrient, iodine, and other beneficial minerals. The recommended dose is about five grams a day or about one ounce per week.
  • Pay attention to other key aspects of your diet. Munch on Brazil nuts, which are rich in selenium. Load up on foods high in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Consume coconut oil. Veer away from gluten and soy-containing foods and beverages.
  • Minimize your stress levels. Take a break, meditate, soak in the tub, go on vacation (hopefully we will be able to do this soon without restrictions) do whatever works for you.
  • Make an effort to limit your exposure to toxins. Filter your air and water to avoid contact with poisonous contaminants. Use an infrared sauna and hot soaks to help your body combat infections and detoxify from petrochemicals, metals, PCBs, pesticides, and mercury. Taking chlorella for detoxification is also advised.
  • Avoid all sources of bromide as much as possible. Bromides are a menace to your endocrine system and are present all around you. Despite a ban on the use of potassium bromate in flour by the World Health Organization (WHO), bromides can still be found in some over-the-counter medications, foods, and personal care products. Being a savvy reader of labels can save you from tons of toxic trouble.
  • Get adequate amounts of sleep. Inadequate sleep contributes to stress and prevents your body from regenerating fully.
  • Exercise directly stimulates your thyroid gland to secrete more thyroid hormone and increases the sensitivity of all your tissues to thyroid hormone. It is thought that many health benefits of exercise result in improved thyroid function.

Parsnips

Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable native to Eurasia and has been used extensively in that region since ancient times. This taproot is closely related to carrots and parsley, and for that reason, it is often mistaken for carrots in historical records. Parsnip is a hardy annual or biennial plant.

Parsnips look like pale carrots but they are a nutrient-packed root vegetable. These vegetables can vary in color from white to cream to pale yellow, with more noticeable sweetness when harvested after the first frost. Before cane sugar and beet sugar, parsnip was used as a natural sweetener to flavor cakes and other baked items. They were the main starch on the table before potatoes.

European explorers brought parsnips with them and introduced the root vegetable to new colonies, especially in North America, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.

One cup (133 grams) of parsnips provides the following:

  • Calories: 100
  • Carbs: 24 grams
  • Fiber: 6.5 grams
  • Protein: 1.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Vitamin C: 25% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin K: 25% of the RDI
  • Folate: 22% of the RDI
  • Vitamin E: 13% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
  • Thiamine: 10% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 8% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 7% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI

Parsnips are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. One cup contains 6.5 grams, or 26% of your daily fiber needs. Fiber moves through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, helping to get things moving. Increasing your fiber intake has been shown to aid in treating digestive conditions like gastro-esophageal reflux disease, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and intestinal ulcers.

Fiber also supports blood sugar control, reduces cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, and decreases markers of inflammation. According to studies, increasing your daily fiber intake by 14 grams may decrease your calorie intake by up to 10%.

Parsnips have a high water content of about 79.5%. Studies show that eating more water-rich foods may be associated with decreased calorie intake and increased weight loss.

Parsnips are loaded with vitamin C, providing about 25% of your daily needs in just one serving. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in immune function. Vitamin C in parsnips stimulates the production of white blood cells to attack foreign microbes in the body, in addition to functioning as a key element in the production of collagen, which is a fundamental building block of our body.

Along with vitamin C, parsnips are rich in potassium, a mineral that helps your heart function, balances your blood pressure, and lowers your risk for kidney stones. One cup of parsnips provides about 10 percent of your RDI of potassium. The high potassium present in parsnips helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium.

Potassium and folate in parsnips fight depression, anxiety, and other mental issues. They also help you become more focused and alert.

Parsnips are rich in folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid), which is also connected with reducing neural tube birth defects including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage in infants. They also help in optimizing metabolic processes related to energy production and the nervous system. Vitamin C and folate in parsnips boost overall oral health by preventing gingivitis, tongue inflammation, toothache, and bad breath. It maintains healthy connective tissue and gums as well as builds strong teeth.

Parsnips provide manganese, which is an essential component of many enzymes in the body.

Parsnips are high in the antioxidants quercetin, kaempferol, and apigenin, which may enhance your immunity and protect against infection.

The research journal Scientific Reports suggests that ascorbic acid, which is also found in parsnip, prevents various eye issues including age-related macular degeneration, which causes blurred vision in older people. The antioxidants in the vegetable also protect the eyes against damage caused by the sun. Overall it helps boost eye health and vision.

Because parsnips provide manganese, calcium, and zinc, they can help improve bone health.

Falcarindiol, an antioxidant present in parsnips, may have anti-cancer properties which look for and destroy tumorigenic cells.

The anti-inflammatory properties of parsnip and carotenoids in it help treat many respiratory problem and infections. These include sinusitis, asthma, wheezing, emphysema (damaged air sacs in the lungs), bronchitis, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and other respiratory illnesses.

Vitamin C, vitamin B9, and iron present in parsnips are crucial for increasing blood flow and preventing anemia, especially in women. Additionally, vitamin E helps in building red blood cells, thereby, boosting oxygen transport in the body.

How to Buy

Parsnips are found in supermarkets year-round, but they’re at their peak flavor from late fall to early spring.

It is best to choose parsnips that are small to medium in size, about 5 to 10 inches in length. Avoid any that are limp or shriveled; the tips should be firm and pointy. Also, look for firm flesh without any soft spots, blemishes, cuts, or cracks. The color should be an even yellowy-cream hue without any dark markings, as that can indicate decay or freeze-burn. If you buy parsnips with their greens still attached, the greens should look fresh and not wilted.

You should avoid picking wild parsnip. Wild parsnip is nearly identical, but it has far more furanocoumarin compounds in its stems and sap. It’s even considered hazardous to some people. These furanocoumarin compounds cause photosensitivity and can lead to sunlight-related burns on the skin within 24 to 48 hours.

How to Store

Remove and discard parsnip greens before storing. Store unwashed parsnips in a cool dark place, just as you would carrots. A root cellar is best, though a basement or garage will work. Keep them away from heat sources; the optimal conditions are 32 F to 40 F and 90 percent humidity. Additionally, apples and pears can emit a gas that gives parsnips a bitter taste, so avoid storing them nearby.

Under these ideal conditions, parsnips should keep well for four to six months. It’s good to check on them often and remove any roots that begin to deteriorate.

Parsnips can also be wrapped in a tea towel and placed in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Using this method, they should last up to two weeks, if not longer. Cooked parsnips may be refrigerated and used within three days.

To freeze, cut parsnips into 1/2-inch cubes and parboil and drain or steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool, pack into well-sealed containers, and freeze for eight to 10 months. Fully cooked parsnip puree may also be frozen for up to 10 months.

How to Cook

Parsnips have a sweet taste similar to carrots, but with a nutty, earthy undertone.

They can be mashed, roasted, sautéed, boiled, baked, grilled, or fried. Parsnips work especially well in soups, stews, casseroles, gratins, and purees.

They can also be easily swapped in for nearly any other root vegetable in your favorite recipes, including carrots, potatoes, turnips, and rutabagas.

  • Combine parsnips with mushrooms and lentils for a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.
  • Mash parsnips and mix with lemon and herbs.
  • Prepare a parsnip gratin with ingredients like vegan feta cheese, turmeric, and cumin.
  • Bake sliced parsnips and bake in the oven to make vegetable crisps.
  • Drizzle maple syrup on parsnips and roast them together in the oven
  • Make a parsnip and potato gratin
  • Grate parsnips and add to your salad

Creamy Leek and Parsnip Soup

David Tanis, New York Times/Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large leeks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • Extra-virgin olive oil or plain dairy-free yogurt, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and parsnips, and stir to coat. Add the 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Let vegetables sizzle and cook, stirring frequently until nearly caramelized, but without browning, until softened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add bay leaf, turmeric and garlic, and stir to coat. Increase heat to high, add water or broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes more. Taste broth and adjust seasoning.
  4. With a blender, purée soup to a creamy consistency. (Small batches work best.) Thin with water or broth, if necessary. It should be like a thin milkshake, not thick and porridge-like.
  5. Reheat the soup before serving. Serve plain, or give each bowl a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or spoonful of dairy-free plain yogurt, if desired.

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